Senate has rejected a proposed amendment in the 2010 Electoral Act, which seeks to compel Presidential aspirants of various political parties to appear for national debate before the actual elections.
This rejection came during a debate on a Bill, titled: “A Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act, 2010 to provide for tenure of office of Secretary, power to issue duplicate voters card, determine voting procedure and for other related matters, 2014”, which was presented by Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Debating whether it is proper or not to compel presidential candidates to appear on national television and radio for this debate, the senators argued that election debates should not be made mandatory for party candidates before standing for an election.
Also rejected was the proposal to place the responsibility of proving the credibility or otherwise of any election on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Senate said the burden of proof on electoral irregularities during election should be on the petitioner that is challenging the Commission.
The Committees further observed that the Bills offered diverse opinion on the issue of deepening democracy and democratic gains through electoral reforms.
However, it said there were glaring problems of practicability, repetitiveness of some provisions, contradiction of standard legal principles and constitutional provisions. Hence, some of the provisions of the aforementioned Bills 266, 297, 379 and 455 were rejected.”
Meanwhile, prominent among the new amendments to the Electoral Act, are provision of tenure for the Secretary of the Commission.
It also gave INEC sufficient time to process transfer of voters and issuance of duplicate voters’ card and also allowed the electoral umpire to determine the procedure for voting at an election – “thereby removing the prohibition of electronic voting.”
The amendment also increased the time for INEC to produce certified true copies of documents requested by any party in an election petition from one to two weeks.
It provided punishment for polling officers who conspire to make false declaration of results.
The First Schedule was however deleted to prevent electoral officers from being respondents in election petitions, among other amendments.